Christmas, Tolkien and a warm cup of creamy zabaione

Merry Christmas, everybody! It is time to sit by the fireplace, in good company of a beautiful book written by J.R.R. Tolkien and posthumously published for the first time in 1976, “The Father Christmas Letters“, while enjoying the pleasure of tasting a warm creamy zabaglione prepared with a hint of Armagnac, a sprinkle of cocoa and tiny slivers of dark chocolate on top. The recipe of zabaglione is simple and you need only very few ingredients for enjoying this delicious cream.

Ingredients for 4 people: 6 yolks, 50 gr of icing sugar, 4 soup spoons of Armagnac, a knob of butter, a tea spoon of (bitter) cocoa, a tea spoon of tiny slivers of dark chocolate.

Heat in a bain-marie yolks, icing sugar and armagnac. Beat the ingredients for at least 15 minutes by using a blender. When the cream is thick, add a knob of butter. Remove the bowl from the cooker and the bain-marie, keep on beating and whip the zabaione for more 15 minutes. Serve the warm cream in cups, add a sprinkle of cocoa and slivers of dark chocolate on top. Enjoy it!

Many thanks. I hope you all are well and wish a beautiful Christmas day. Please, stay safe, everybody. God Jul! ❤

First Sunday of Advent in the kitchen

Here we are, Christmas is knocking at the door again and we already know it will be a very special season for all of us. Even though it won’t be often possible to behave as usual, that is expressing our love by hugging members of family and loved ones, we wish all of them to be safe and in our heart as always. In the mood to keep everybody closer to our thoughts and in the respect of a long family tradition for cooking and baking at Christmas time, we had a cosy first Sunday afternoon of Advent in the kitchen and made a delicious soft heart of vanilla and chocolate to have with a warm cup of tea. As you will see the recipe is pretty simple and it will be a delicious dessert loved by children and “older children”. Ingredients we need:

100 gr castor sugar (make your own), 2 eggs, 175 gr flour, 100 gr butter, 40 gr almonds meal (make your own), 60 gr crème fraîche, 8 gr baking powder, 2 soup spoons bitter cocoa, 2 soup spoons vanilla icing sugar, a coffee spoon of cardamom.

  • Choose the cake tin you prefer and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Once you are to use it for the mixture, grease it inside with butter and sprinkle it with flour at first.
  • Mix castor sugar and eggs. Add flour, butter, almonds meal, crème fraîche and baking powder. Mix and beat with energy in order to have a very smooth mixture. Help yourself with a fork or a whisk or even use a whisk beater machine.
  • Pour the mixture in two different bowls. In the first bowl add cocoa and cardamom and mix all together. In the second bowl, add vanilla icing sugar and mix all together again. Add some milk if the mixture is too thick and it will turn to be more creamy and softer.
  • First, pour the vanilla mixture in the baking tin, then add the chocolate mixture on the surface of the vanilla mixture. Be careful to not touch the baking tin along its borders. Add a sprinkle of almond slivers on the surface of the cake.
  • Place the cake in the preheated 160°C oven for about 30 minutes. Once you see it looks golden, turn the oven off and leave the cake in it still for about 10/15 minutes.

This soft delicacy can be an excellent idea as a dessert served with a good warm cup of tea or coffee during a coffee pause or even after dinner paired with a spoon of vanilla cream.

Let’s enjoy the beginning of this Christmas season and wish a beautiful December month to everybody! ❤

Warm crisp crostini of bread and lentils to wish a wonderful 2020

It is Tuesday morning, on the last day of December 2019. For the table of the new year and for wishing all the best in 2020, I prepared a soup of small lentils. In less than an hour it can be served to guests.

You need lentils (the proportions are according to the number of your guests), celery, carrots, onion, garlic, bouillon prepared with vegetables, tomato puree, parsley, extra virgin olive oil, curry, salt and pepper.

Firstly, fry a mixture of diced celery, carrots, onion in a pan with extra virgin olive oil. Then, add a clove of garlic, the lentils, a coffee spoon of curry, a tea spoon of tomato puree. (When you buy lentils, please, pay attention whether you can already cook them or you have to leave them in a bowl with cold water for a couple of hours right before starting with the cooking process). Once in the pan, leave the lentils for a couple of minutes to let flavors of the frying vegetables be soaked up by the lentils and then add the bouillon. Add salt and pepper. Cook the soup slowly for about 40 minutes. In the end, lentils should be tender and dried.

Serve the warm lentils on discs (crostini) of homemade bread that you previously made crisp in the oven for about 10 minutes, 200°C, with few drops of extra virgin olive oil on their surface. Add leaves of parsley to decor the plate. This dish could be an inviting idea for starters or a light warm soup.

Many thanks and wishing everybody a wonderful 2020!

Home Made Fresh Pasta at Christmas Time

Here we are! It’s the second weekend of Advent and, in the kitchen, on Sunday morning, we enjoy making fresh pasta. Actually, serving ravioli to guests at our Christmas table can be an excellent idea but we are going to use alternative ingredients for the stuffing, such as sheep milk ricotta cheese (250gr), parmigiano reggiano (50gr) and a pear.

  • As first step we make a thin sheet of pastry. The manual pasta making machine (nonna papera) is the faster solution if you are in a hurry or you may use a rolling pin if you are familiar with it. The proportion of the ravioli mixture for a couple of people is 250g semolina, one egg, little oil, water. Of course, you can add ingredients according to the number of your guests. As soon as the mixture is done, leave it to rest for an hour.
  • In the meanwhile, cut a pear in very small cubes, add a yolk, ricotta, grated parmigiano cheese and mix the stuffing for ravioli pasta.
  • Then, make small discs of ravioli pasta, stuff them with a spoon of the cream made with pear, ricotta and parmigiano cheese, seal them hermetically.
  • Cook ravioli in boiling salted water for few minutes and, as soon as ravioli come up on the surface of the boiling water, it’s time to strain them.
  • Finally, serve them warm in a dish with melted butter, grated sheep milk cheese and papaver seeds on top.

Buon appetito and wishing everybody a good new week!

A rich tasteful meal to welcome the arrival of snow

   It does not snow often in Apulia at Wintertime. Indeed, it takes years or even decades to watch snowing and perhaps, once in a while, it is a welcome gift for generations of new borns to learn with amazement about its cold, fluffy, white lightness. On Friday, January 4th 2019, right at the beginning of this first weekend of the new year, silently snow came, like a couple of years ago, for  covering the  regions of Southern Italy with its white blanket, to celebrate Epiphany and last days of a very mild weathered holiday season. On the one hand, it was a delightful surprise again for many of those, who learnt about its existence with joyful spirit during their childhood. On the other hand, snow means to hurry in order to reap the local crops from the fields, before they get lost. Indeed, since snowing is not so frequent in the South of Apulia, it is not used to have growings in greenhouses. Perhaps, experiencing different climatic conditions in recent years might be seen as an excellent opportunity to bring safer, innovative solutions to local season farming. 

   For lunch time, we prepared a symphony of different tastes, both from local culinary tradition and from the gastronomy of Central/Northern European Countries. We started with a warm healthy soup made of lentils coming from Altamura (an ancient town in Apulia, not far from Bari, which was founded by Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen dinasty and it is also well known for its genuine tasteful bread), which is an authentic healthy idea, when it is cold outside. Taking advantage of our cosy fireplace, we cooked the lentils soup in the old slow way, on the live charcoal, in a typical earthenware pot. Lentils were prepared in some extra virgin olive oil and water (you can pour some vegetables bouillon, if you like it), adding small cherry tomatoes, selery, onion, salt, pepper, laurel.

   Then, it was the turn for a puree of broccoli. We steamed and  lightly sautéed broccoli in extravirgin olive oil and rosé wine, with chopped onion, an idea of garlic, a sprinkle of salt and hot pepper. After that, we put broccoli in a food processor, where the puree of broccoli was done, adding some vegetable bouillon from time to time.

   From the butcher, we had a delicious porchetta style turkey tenderloin aromatized with fresh rosemary, fennel seeds and sage, which we cooked with an emulsion of extravirgin olive oil, red wine, chopped leek, laurel at first. Then, almost at the end of the cooking process, we poured some vegetable bouillon on the turkey tenderloin for a tastier moister flavour.

   New local potatoes are an appetizing delicacy even at Wintertime and a must for a dish, when good flavour of meat paired with lightness are served. So, we prepared a wonderful sauce for the steamed potatoes, using a special recipe, which was given to us, while in Stockholm, by a very kind and solicitous lady, working in a food store. We mixed together the ingredients for the sauce in a good balance of moutarde de Dijon, skånsk senap, vinegar, sugar, extra virgin olive oil, (rapsolja is mostly used in Sweden), garlik, leek and fresh herbs like parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon.

  In the end, the dish made of a warm lentils soup, fragrant porchetta style turkey tenderloin on a bed of broccoli puree, new potatoes dressed with a tasteful Swedish sauce was served by the fireplace.

   The holiday season is at the end and we do hope you had beautiful time. We wish you all the best for the new year ahead and hope you will keep enjoying our culinary tips. Thanks a lot and enjoy the music!